Right Hon. IAN A. MACKENZIE (Minister of Veterans Affairs): Mr. Speaker, I have a brief statement to make which deals partly with government policy and partly with factual observations in connection with certain reports which I shall ask the permission of the house to table.
I wish to table the report on Veterans Land Act housing presented by Colonel C. E. Parish following an inspection which he carried out under authority of P.C. 76 of January 9, 1947; also separate reports by the deputy minister of the department and the director of the Veterans Land Act. These three gentlemen together made an inspection of a majority of the subdivision projects upon which houses were built by contract under the Veterans Land Act all across Canada.
Attached to the deputy minister's report is an additional report made by a British Columbia committee into the Braefoot project near Victoria. The decision to have this inquiry into the Braefoot project was made prior to the appointment of the committee of dominion-wide jurisdiction.
Hon. members will I think find in the reports information bearing out the statement which I gave the house the other day. There are defects, but as I previously stated all these defects can be corrected, and I have already given the house my assurance that the work will be done without cost to the veteran.
Hon. members will I believe readily understand the reasons why these houses, erected under conditions of the greatest urgency, now require minor repairs. The accomplishment in housing 2,600 veterans' families who otherwise would be living under conditions which cannot make for a proper home life in my opinion far outweighs any weaknesses which have been shown in this construction programme. The fact is that the department completed in one year 2,600 homes under the most difficult building conditions which this country has ever experienced. How outstanding was this achievement is best evidenced by the fact that in Canada today thousands of houses that have been under construction for months are still far from completion owing to lack of materials and the scarcity of the right type of labour.
Contrasting with the achievement of my department in pushing these 2,600 homes through to completion is the fact that in 1946 -and this is very important-private contractors embarked on 1,750 contracts for veterans under the Veterans Land Act. During the year they were able to complete only 224 of these.
My deputy minister has reported to me- and I am sure hon. members will be glad to hear this-the reception which he and other members of the investigating body met with in the homes they visited. Almost one hundred per cent of the wives and mothers were delighted with the accommodation provided.
Hon. members will be gratified to learn that every member of the inspection committee agrees that the houses on today's market represent-this is very important too; it is in the findings-fair value to the veterans. Colonel C. E. Parish, for instance, states specifically that it would be impossible for the veteran to find housing of equal value for the price he is now paying. Colonel Parish is an outstanding engineer of wide experience-in house building. He is also a member of the
Canadian Legion advisory committee on housing. Colonel Parish has made a detailed analysis of the defects, -a, close and I think very fair analysis. That is what was asked for, and I can think of nobody in Canada better qualified to make such a report.
I should like to summarize Colonel Parish's recommendations. They are as follows:
1. That the drainage problem be carefully studied and efficient drainage schemes provided without cost to the purchaser.
2. That where sewage disposal is inefficient, correction be made by installation of new disposal fields or by connection to municipal sewerage systems.
3. That structural defects be put into first class condition as quickly as possible, and that, where necessary, competent superintendents be retained to carry out this work efficiently.
4. That the temporary softwood floors laid when hardwood flooring was unobtainable be replaced by suitable hardwood flooring when available.
5. That no overall reduction in the selling price be made, but that the present policy of writing off costs owing to unusual conditions on a particular project be continued.
The deputy minister in his report recommends that an experienced drainage engineer, or engineers, be retained to supervise the carrying out of the recommendations in this regard. This will be done; in fact all necessary work and repairs will be closely supervised by officers of my department. In this connection I must point out that comprehensive action with regard to drainage cannot be undertaken until the frost is out of the ground.
While Colonel Parish and the deputy minister have hesitated somewhat to estimate the cost of the alterations, very largely because they consist of a multiplicity of detail, the director of the Veterans Land Act has recommended that an additional $500,000 be added to the million dollar fund set up a year ago for the purpose of writing off excessive costs where such were found. These recommendations as announced will be carried out.
I direct attention also to the findings of all three members of the committee that the costs encountered are reasonable and not out out of line with today's market and that Colonel Parish specifically recommends against any overall reduction in the selling prices.
In addition to the reports which I am now tabling, all three members of the committee brought back with them many field notes of observations made. These are, in cases, quite bulky and extensive as referred to in the 83166-1024
report of the deputy minister, Mr. Woods. These detailed notes will be of invaluable assistance as a guide to those who undertake the work which remains to be done and will be useful in supplying as far as possible further information that may be desired through questioning.
Once again, with the support of my colleagues, I wish to assure the house that the work recommended by this committee will be carried out as expeditiously as possible and with the firm purpose of ensuring that the veterans who purchase these houses shall come into possession of permanent houses of which they can be justly proud.